9 Little-Known Rules to Supercharge Your Productivity on the Road

Travel Shift Perspective: How We View Time On the Road

Aerial View Flying over Ocean

Tell me if it’s not true, we view time differently when we are traveling. We become more aware of how much of it we have in every place we visit. We do this because we have a sharp awareness of its scarcity. Somewhere, in the dusty windmills of our mind, we know that our time on this earth is limited but heavens knows most of us don’t act that way on a day to day basis. Travel, on the other hand, changes all of that by gently reminding us of our numbered hours and days. This is perhaps because we can process it easier when it comes in short bursts. We know – and understand – we have only a day, a week, a fortnight, or a month at most, on most travels, and we work hard not to waste it.

But how do you stay productive on the road? How do you keep pushing forward on your goals during your travels?

Sometimes, productivity does not apply to your travels. I understand the attraction to the idea of completely unplugging when you are on a unique journey to a special place. How else can you really hear the heartbeat of a new place if you do not immerse into it? I know. I get it. I immersed in Bali and I plan to immerse in Africa next year. Those are life’s special moments and they are not about being productive. Another change is going on inside of us and the process of immersion is best when left alone.

But sometimes we travel to get away from work for a while, to visit family and relatives and to attend special events, to go for a training or a workshop. Sometimes, it’s a vacation, other times, a business trip. Sometimes, it’s just an exploration – a personal journey that becomes an infusion of your life’s work and your own self-discovery.

expertflyerOn most occasions, you may have a reason for staying productive on the road and when your normal environment changes, your productivity routines get shaken up, and what you may not know is how to take advantage of that and use the exclusive benefits of traveling to boost your productivity. In fact, I am willing to bet that in some situations, you will do your absolute best work when you are away and on the road.

In fact, in the hundreds of thousands of miles that I have traveled over the years – our secret to travel hacking is booking through Expert Flyer – two of my biggest challenges have been staying productive and keeping up with my meditation routines. I’ve solve the meditation problem and last year, I started applying these tips below to my productivity challenge!

The result? I created my best-selling product, The Green Juicing Guide, while on vacation with spotty internet connections, in Australia and New Zealand, without compromising the fun and the enjoyment of these heavenly locales.

Your reasons and end-goals for productivity are your own – you may want to organize your files or write that book or read that novel or plan that retirement. Productivity is not about working. It’s about accomplishing what matters to you and you can apply these rules to your personal agenda.

9 Rules to Supercharge Your Productivity when Traveling

Rule #1: Knowing When to Say No

Honestly do you need to go to every cocktail social hour with your co-workers on a business trip? Must you go out every single night and stay out late? Does that yield the best friendships, network, peers? The idea to exhaust yourself in order to build a network or to see as much as possible sounds exotic and ambitious – and I used to be the master of it. It does not work as well as having a targeted high-quality networking time that lets you leave a professional and interesting impression. Seek the perfect balance between networking, seeing sights and sounds and taking time to reflect and recuperate from it all. It’s important to know when to commit to a social outing and when to stay back and focus on your work and personal endeavors. Learn to say no so you hold some time back for you.

Rule #2: Making a Deal with Yourself

This is the perfect example of a mental game and it works, although it partly depends on your relationship with yourself. I know all about the love affair with chaos, and not planning and just going with the flow. I don’t advise it went it comes to productivity. Early on in your trip, just make a deal with yourself on what you plan to accomplish before the end of your trip. Then break it down into your schedule, and think of a perfect way to reward yourself every single time. For example, on long flights, I make myself write 2000 words toward a new chapter in my book or my blog before watching an in-flight movie. Works brilliantly and sometimes, I write longer when I stay in the zone. What kind of deal can you make with yourself?

Rule #3: Using Situational Scarcity as Pure Motivation

When things are scarce, we want them all the more. Let this be your motivation. During travels, internet connection is limited, power supplies are in dearth, and you probably don’t have long stretches of time to relax and sit still and focus. Use this situational scarcity as motivation. You know you have only 30 minutes on WiFi at the airport or 20 minute left on your iPhone before it shuts down, and stay focused, get small tasks done quickly and effectively. Remember the deal you made with yourself, and use the resources that you have at your disposal with smarts.

Rule #4: Feeding Your Ideas with the Travel-Induced Creativity

Creativity is a funny thing. It’s elusive, it’s intangible, and it seems to escape when we need it the most. Travel comes to the rescue; it never fails to give birth to new ideas and to flow new juices of creativity, but I’ve come to notice, it’s not even so much travel as it is the act of moving. Moving and transporting from one place to another generates an amazing surge of ideas and a desire to create something, whatever it may be, anything from a plan of action to organize your closet to a new way you are going to approach your marathon training. Capture and take those ideas to another level every time you find yourself in this self-induced zen space of creative energy. Use the power of mediation to get into that zone.

Rule #5: Scheduling Your Work and Fun in Chunks

All work and no play is not fun at all, we know that but all fun and no work gets old too, especially if you love your work and if you understand the passion that can go into doing something you love. Stephen King wrote in his part-memoir book On Writing how the most difficult thing for him is “not working”. Imagine that!

So a good formula to keep productivity at its highest is to approach your days in small chunks of work-fun-work-fun instead of work-work-work-fun-fun-fun. If you have the flexibility in your travels, create these chunks of work followed by fun and the sweet spot of your productivity will emerge.

Rule #6: Using Small Pockets of Time Wisely

Beware these tiny pockets of time, especially if you are used to wasting them. These are the waiting periods, waiting to board, waiting to depart, waiting in line for food, waiting for an appointment to show up, what are you doing with those 5, 15 or sometimes, 30 minute slots? You can read and learn, because, well, you can never do too much of either one. Prepare your digital devices well before leaving, throw your books and PDF files on your Kindle or iPad or iPhone and have them ready. Take an hour to organize this in advance of your departure and squeeze more out of those small pockets of time.

Rule #7: Learning to Be Productive without Online Access

In New Zealand, I was going nuts running my business. I was in paradise but I didn’t have Internet access, and only because I was on the verge of publishing that best-selling juicing book I told you about. This is the norm, though, our addiction to the online world can be destructive to our productivity habits when we are left without. Learn to be productive toward your goals without having any internet access at all. You don’t need the internet to think, to plan, to come up with ideas, to brainstorm, or to read and just write. Be prepared with at least a dozen ways you can stay productive without the Internet. Your focus will be sharper than a Japanese chef’s knife!

Rule #8: Creating a Make-Shift Workspace Wherever You Go

Oh how we love our routine at home. We have perfect our workspace and moving away from it is not without consequence. No matter how much benefit to being in a new environment, you might miss the familiarity of home. This is why I think you should carry some things that will help create this makeshift of your home workspace wherever you are. Maybe it’s your favorite pen and leather notebook, maybe it’s your favorite snacks or timer or mouse or mug. Whatever it may be, make an exception and just pack it along.

Rule #9: Maximize the Benefits of Being Away from Home

I am not talking about the benefits of travel so much as the benefits of being away from home. I speak as a true victim to this and perhaps you can relate: I get so distracted in my own house, from folding the laundry to cleaning the counter-tops to watering my plants, I tell myself that I am thinking and planning during those quiet zen-like moments but it turns out I am also spending my energy away from work. A small hotel room is bereft of the distractions that keep you running around at your own house. Use this to your advantage. Use the time that you gain by being away toward the stuff that really matters to you and make leaps of progress toward your goals.

β€œTravel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
β€” Miriam Beard

Get Confident in 21 Easy Steps

  • http://www.midwaymarketplace.com/blog7 Maxwell Ivey

    Hi Farnoosh; another excellent post. I believe that i would have the same problem that steven king mentioned. I believe that when i do finally start going places I will have to schedule time and activities to balance out work. I mean it will be a struggle, and myself will have to be a tough negotiator the days before the trip begins. as for working without the internet i have many friends in australia, new zealand, and the united kingdom who have warned me about how spoiled us americans are when it comes to having high speed internet access so readily available. one of my favorite tools for this is mars edit. Its a 3rd party ap for apple products that lets you create and edit wordpress posts and pages without the internet. when you have access, you press refresh and it uploads all your work to your blog or wordpress site. And if someone is planning their first long trip, and they have some older tech devices; it might be a good time to upgrade them. I say this because so many of our tech gadgets get better battery life as part of the newer models. and I keep it real simple here. I work on a laptop that is quite often on well my lap. as long as i have some background noise radio or bad tv shows, I’m good to go. so at least there, I’m already getting ready for working from the road. Thanks again for all the great advice and i hope your next trip is personally satisfying as well as professionally successful. take care, max

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi Max, thank you – yes to us being spoiled but not compared to the Japanese. So it’s all relative. Our internet speeds are crappy – forgive me for lack of a better word – when it comes to Japanese home internet speeds. Did you know that? Tell THAT to your NZ/Aussie buddies ;))! Ah well, it’s a good thing I adore them both and they have such lovely countries that I would easily consider living there despite the Internet issues.
      Never heard of the tool you mention but thanks for sharing. Great to know. You are most welcome and thanks for being here, Max!

      • http://www.midwaymarketplace.com/blog7 Maxwell Ivey

        Hi Farnoosh; My brother michael who has traveled far more extensively than me has said that they have better internet than we do in japan and china especially when comparing mobile internet offerings. thanks for the information on japan though. i recently heard about verizon’s plans to offer a 65 gb per second download speed for home and business use with equivalent higher speed uploads. and you wouldn’t have heard of mars edit unless you are a apple user. I’m sure there are similar products for windows. I’m a mac user because the screen reading options are more seamless and much less expensive. smile Every year my friends ask me if I’m going to be at the trade show in Orlando Florida for the amusement park industry, and every year I’ve had to say no. five months until this year’s show, so its still a possibility, and your advice here will be very helpful then. take care, max

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Mr. Ivey, I beg your pardon – I am an Apple MAC fanatic through and through. I have every Mac product or on the verge of getting it. I ditched the PC world a few years ago…. Funny though what you say about accessibility – as you may know, my genius bro, Sina, is also blind, and he prefers PC programs (JAWS mainly) and can’t stand Apple programs. Interesting how you two differ on that.
          You gotta go to that trade show, Max. You just gotta do it. Set a new goal and tag someone along just in case. Sina travels all the time. He even went to India to give speech at a conference!

          • http://www.midwaymarketplace.com/blog7 Maxwell Ivey

            Hi Farnoosh; that’s what i get for assuming. smile I run into a lot of people who wonder why i don’t use windows. And there is a natural bias among blind computer users towards windows. This is mainly because over 90 percent of institutional purchases are of windows computers and related screen reading products. Most people are loyal to their first love and I feel this applies to computers as well. I am planning to go to the IAAPA show this year. maybe someone that follows you who lives in orlando may offer to play sighted guide for a few days. and with this much notice i can always contact the light house or other agencies for a referral. I enjoy traveling, but haven’t had the need or funding in a while. i really wanted to go to a similar show in australia this spring. That one was bad to miss because they only have it every other year. Hopefully, I’ll write soon with news that I have my convention tickets, hotel, and air fare reserved. And windows computers are better if you have the budget for it. However, maintaining a windows computer along with its screen reading software gets very expensive. The number one product jaws for windows costs hundreds every time there is a major update to windows. The last time i checked they offered maintenance contracts but they were $200 a year or so. And any time windows comes out with a new version yu don’t know if your hardware will support it or not. The last apple update from snow leopard to lion was about $40 and it included updates to voiceover. This is probably too long and answer for this forum, so I’ll apologize for running on. Let’s just say I feel more confident with my mac than i ever did with the windows computers I have owned. I’m not ready for a iPhone yet, but that’s just because i would probably need a portable keyboard to do my work on it. I say that in spite of the hundreds of blind users who have no problems entering text on their i devices. My other problem is as far as i know none of the i devices offer ftp access which is a deal breaker for me. but I would love to exchange emails with your brother. Please feel free to give him my email address. and I have all my paperwork ready to send in as soon as a sale or some other income comes in to pay for the orlando trip. Again sorry to assume you were an apple hater. take care, max

            • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

              Oh my gosh, Max, that is a very long comment :)) – I would really appreciate it if we could keep the comments just a little shorter. I don’t have any character limit I just leave it up to my wonderful readers and I am sure you just got carried away ;))! I will be happy to get you in touch with my brother, and thank you for sharing your in-depth insights on technology. Stay well and talk soon!

              • http://www.midwaymarketplace.com/blog7 Maxwell Ivey

                hi farnoosh; yes, i thought about editing that out and should have. should have just written an email about that or forgot it all together. and will do better in the future. take care, max

  • http://www.jenmsmith.com Jen

    Very useful tips Farnoosh, and great that they could also apply very well to work when not travelling too. My husband and I were talking just today about how much more productive we often are when we use the internet in the library rather than work from home with a time limit.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Jen, so glad that you and your hubby enjoy traveling too. And so glad you see the same phenomena too? Somehow the limitation makes an immediate impact on our minute-to-minute productivity. It’s a great way to work under pressure if we know this little path to super productivity, isn’t it? Lovely seeing you here.

  • http://stevewhitetoday.com/blog/ Steve White (@SteveWhiteToday)


    Great post – as usual! I like that you brought up being productive without internet access. We depend on the internet so much these days that it’s often hard to remember how we ever got anything done without it. However, it’s possible to be even more productive in the “old school” way because the internet, in all its splendor, also brings many distractions.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Steve, I grew up in the old school way of things and didn’t even have my own laptop in college (now that I have nearly given away my age ;)) I can’t agree with you more – that’s why inserting periods of no-internet in our lives is a boon to our productivity and probably our inner peace! Thanks for stopping over to share your thoughts!

  • http://ryzeonline.com Jason “J-Ryze” Fonceca

    Hi Farnoosh! What a super-relevant post for me.

    I’m on a train right now.

    I’m writing this from the road, on my way back from a collaboration session with Danny Iny in Montreal.

    I applied many of these tips, but not all of them. It’d be hard to quantify in numbers the productivity of this trip, but my heart and general analysis declare it to be OFF THE CHARTS.

    It was bliss. Total in-the-zone-ness. Even our breaks felt ridiculously productive.

    What I’m getting at, is that for me, relevant tips like this are applied almost naturally + organically when the travel’s… “lined up right”.

    I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but I wanted to share :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Train? Oh I love trains. And Montreal sounds lovely, and Danny Iny session? Good for you, Jason, did you learn a lot??
      You are probably full of inspiration and if you can’t measure it, then it is a brilliant zone to be in – who needs metrics when everything feels just right!
      Thank you for sharing and I am eager to see how you put those tips from Danny into practice, Jason! Keep me posted.

      • http://ryzeonline.com Jason “J-Ryze” Fonceca

        Yep, it was a complete, total blast.

        I don’t think it’s possible to be around Danny and NOT learn a lot. The man’s wisdom is pure, distilled, entrepreneurial gold.

        OMG – hottest quote I’ve ever heard: “who needs metrics when everything just feels right.” — needs to be tweetable, or an entire post, Farnoosh. (Maybe I’ll write it if you don’t πŸ˜‰ )

        And thank you, I’ll keep you posted!

  • http://gloriink.com Glori Surban

    These are great tip Farnoosh! But honestly, I’m not very found of traveling…

    I know a lot of people say that “it’s about the journey and not the destination.”

    But try telling that to a girl with motion sickness. LOL.

    It’s all about the destination for me. I’m like, “Please just let me arrive alive.” So I’m not sure if I’ll be productive while travelling. Seriously, I need like half a day to recover from the trip before you can talk to me. It’s good thing that when I travel, I travel with people who know how I am.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Glori, ok ok, you rest during the trip. :) Sigh, I hear you – I really do. I have been sick before and it’s no fun!! None at all! I think maybe that’s a good time for you to catch up on music, podcasts, audio stuff that doesn’t require you to actively think and read and write, and you can close your eyes and do it that way. I hope this helps!!!

  • http://www.successbuildingblocks.com Grady Pruitt

    I nearly always take my laptop with me when we go on trips. I take it for two reasons. First, it gives me a place to store photos that I take with my camera so that I can save room for other photos. But the other thing having my laptop with me does is that I know that I stay up later than most of the rest of my family, and when we’re on a trip, this is a great time for me to do a little blog commenting or writing material for my site. I’ll even use this time for reading or learning. It’s something I do to keep productive, even on trips, and still stay “immersed” during the day.

    That, and I guess I am a little addicted to being online too πŸ˜€

    Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Grady, it’s hard to leave that laptop home, isn’t it? Have you thought about little USB or other storage devices if it’s just for photos? It’s hard to do without it. I have taken just the iPad at times to conferences – one good thing if you don’t have the laptop: catch up on (non-laptop!) reading or focus on other things but alas, it’s hard so good thing you are being productive AND immersing in the places you visit. (the addiction is mutual ;))! Thanks so much for stopping by!!!

      • http://www.successbuildingblocks.com Grady Pruitt

        Yes, it is hard to leave it at home. And I may get a tablet at some point, just not yet.

        I think you misunderstand on the photos… It’s not that I’m using the laptop to bring previous pictures with me. (I do have an external hard drive that I leave at home for that.) I use the laptop to store pictures I take on the trip so I can clear the memory card on the camera to make room for more pictures.

        And I agree, having it is addictive πŸ˜€

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          No no, I totally get it – that’s what we do as well but there are small hard-drive devices that you can use to just download pictures from camera…. at least I was under the impression that was the case. :) Nonetheless, thanks for coming back and a tablet might be fun, especially in conferences, Grady!

  • http://www.learningthroughlife.org Cassandra

    Sweet Farnoosh…this is an amazing, helpful post! I haven’t had the pleasure of traveling (yet), but there are so many places I want (& am going) to see and visit. Each and every one of your tips and pieces of advice is something I know will help me stay productive, even while loving the traveling and vacation side of the trip, too. It’s great that you want to share all your great, experienced advice to so many things that will absolutely benefit us! :)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Dear Cassandra, hi. I have received all your messages and delighted to hear you are doing well – (you are, right? you didn’t specifically say that) and you will be traveling SO MUCH one day. I am so happy that you continue to get so much out of the blog ….. thank you for stopping by!

      • http://www.learningthroughlife.org Cassandra

        Dearest Farnoosh,

        Yes, I am doing really well! :) A little busy & overwhelmed between my classes & my little men, and a bit disappointed that I haven’t had the chance to write more on my blog (I am going to be writing one this weekend, tho)…but still doing very well.

        I just had my last day for my Public Speaking class, and am very proud of myself & my grade (A!). :) I was terrified and full of anxiety at just the thought of taking the class, which was required so I had no option of not taking it…but I actually really enjoyed the class! I still have some anxiety at public speaking and still have much room to improve, but I learned a lot and got so much helpful feedback…it actually turned out to be a really good experience. :)

        I can’t wait to have the chance to enjoy traveling! One of my goals is to travel around the world, go to amazing countries, see breath-taking, inspirational places, and meet people who are just as amazing and inspiring as the places I’ll be visiting. I want to travel to India, Australia, Ireland, Hawaii, New Zealand, Japan, St. Thomas (Virgin Islands, in general lol), Rome, Italy…and the list just keeps growing lol. Your beautiful photos make me look forward to it even more! :)

        And your blog always brings helpful tips and advice that I enjoy reading about and learning…and on top of that, it brings endless inspiration to me. :)

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          Love the full on update from you, lovely Cassandra. Thank you for taking the time to send it – I have been to all those destinations you name except for India. You will be loving each and every one.
          So happy you keep getting value from the blog… and get back to your own blog when the energy and time feels right. Big hugs to you, Cassandra, stay with it, and keep me posted.

  • http://www.workingmystic.com Nneka, Working Mystic

    Hi Farnoosh, I followed you over here from the Jungle of Life. Great community you have here :-)

    I travel for business. I find that it sharpens my routine. It’s much easier for me to build habits when I’m on travel. Like you mentioned, I’ve become acutely aware of time.

    When I travel for myself though, it’s 80% leisure, 20% exploration. I just feel like I want to stretch the time and soak in nothingness.

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi dear Nneka, just replied to your other comment – welcome!!
      Travel sharpens your routine – that’s a brilliant line. I might steal it away. Love the way you express yourself,… “soak in nothingness”. :) I have to check your blog now, Nneka. Hope you are a writer with that self-expression.

      • http://www.workingmystic.com Nneka, Working Mystic

        Hi Farnoosh, that is a great compliment coming from you. You are prolific indeed. How long have you been blogging? Your site is so rich in content. I’ve been going through the archives and I can’t get enough.

        • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

          The archives are yours to enjoy. Officially since 2009 with Prolific Living but unofficially since 2007 (I was just playing around for a year I had no idea what I was doing :)). Thanks Nneka!

  • http://www.wveasley.org William Veasley

    Farnoosh: Hey, this post was very timely for me. I am on vacation right now so a lot of your advice is relevant to me, but for the most part, I am trying to take advantage of the little free time I have. Today, I spent most of my time unproductivily, but I am on vacation and I cannot forget that. It is easy for me to work from anywhere so it is also easy for me to forget when I am on a vacation. I just published some new content and if I was at home, tonight I probably would not get any sleep because my motivation is always high after I publish a new post. My plan tonight is to go to bed shortly. In the next half hour I will be in the bed where I belong! ( :

    P.s. I want to re-read this post in the morning. I feel that I can gain some early morning motivation since it is so relevant.

    Anyways, best wishes
    William Veasley

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hi William, so glad to hear it. Relevant is what I aim for :)!
      If you are on vacation and you want to take time out, then just do it. Be with it. Enjoy it. But if there are pockets of time that you feel compelled to do something, why not? :) Thanks for your comment and keep me posted, William.

  • http://saraholeary.net Sarah / Holistic Hot Sauce

    I find it easiest to be productive on the road when I am traveling on my own – without others to distract me! But it’s still hard sometimes to carve out the time and create that balance between work and fun, so thanks for these great tips on that front!
    I have the most difficulty remaining productive when I am visiting friends and family who want to spend the most time with me as possible – as I want to do with them. During those trips sometimes I feel lucky just to keep up with my emails. I’ve realized it’s probably best on those types of trips not to expect too much of myself and to kick into high gear before I leave so I can get a bunch of stuff done ahead of time! (Sometimes that works out, sometimes not so much :-D)

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello again Sarah!
      You know, that’s really true, except for occasions when strangers start talking next to you on a plane, right? πŸ˜‰ But yes, those are the best.
      I have in-laws visits coming up in August and it’s going to be a challenge but I have trained people around me that if I am with them for longer than a few hours, they’ll have to respect my space :)! But it’s a choice we all make and so long as you make the right one for you, you are all set, methinks. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.edgeffects.blogspot.com Gloria

    Hi Farnoosh!

    Just started going through the site. I found this very helpful.

    Re: #4 – I find travel makes you think about things from a different perspective than you do at home, so I like to take a train or short car trip somewhere when I’m really struggling with a decision or figuring out a problem.

    Re: #6 – I keep a lot of books and pdfs on my nook/hacked tablet. Do you or any of your readers have a good suggestion on apps or methods for exporting notes taken on the device?

    Thanks for such great insights!

    • http://www.ProlificLiving.com Farnoosh

      Hello dear Gloria, lovely to have you here and so happy that we met at WDS.
      Love your points on travel giving a different perspective, so true.
      As for your question, hmmm., not sure what you mean. I read books and PDF docs on all my electronics – I have the iPhone, iPad and Kindle, no nook, – so I have no expertise on the nook, so sorry! Google however is your best friend πŸ˜‰ Glad to have you here!

  • Pingback: Stick to Zen Habits on The Road | Travel Zen Habits()

  • http://www.PaulJolicoeur.com Paul Jolicoeur

    Love point #3. I am currently away, will be out from the house for 6 of 8 weeks (I have my family for most of the time!). Its strange not having the internet in my pocket at all times! Battery life has become something I have had to use mental power to manage. Thanks for a great post!

  • Pingback: Productivity Habits While Traveling the World()

  • Pingback: 7 Innocent Habits that Kill Your Productivity()